We all make mistakes, but for the AP and Twitter to futz up a phishing attack so royally is an embarrassment. As you'll recall, the Associated Press' Twitter account was compromised due to a phishing attack yesterday during which a tweet went out that said “Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured.”
This in turn sent the markets into a panic and, for a few horrible minutes, the world was in the dark. Given recent events, there was also little reason not to believe the AP, that vanguard of news dissemination. Now we know we can't trust even them.
Today, all that got worse. For a few minutes this morning, at about 8:30, that Tweet was back. Now, at 9am, the feed is clearing itself and the follower count is slowly inching up. It's clear that someone at Twitter is fixing this account in live production.
A brand's Twitter account manager should not be reading email or changing passwords online. He or she should have a direct line to a dedicated support person at Twitter who, in turn, can confirm identities through multi-factor authorization. Whoever fell for a phishing attack at the AP is an idiot and Twitter, in this case, is idiotic for bringing the account live with the hoax Tweet intact.
The spry among the startup set will chalk this up to a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, gitter' dun aesthetic that means you fix what you broke as quickly as possible. That would be fine if we were talking about my Twitter feed, which is most probably a list of bad dick jokes and sloth photos. Instead, we are talking about a feed that can move markets.
We are asked every day to put our trust in new media. That new media has to earn our trust. It's true that the AP, a dinosaur to be sure, should not have put the keys to their million plus broadcast medium in the hands of an idiot. However it's also true that this should have been repaired as quickly as possible and with a minimum of damage. Every time a disruptive technology fails we learn a new lesson. However, at this point, school should be out for giants like Twitter and the AP.
UPDATE – The AP's Social Media Editor has updated the feed.